Argentina and Australia open their 2022 Rugby Championship account at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza on Saturday with both sides finding themselves in slightly precarious situations, albeit for different reasons.
Argentina v Australia
Saturday 6 August
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas
To Win Match
Argentina 2/1| Draw 20/1| Australia 4/10
Argentina (+5.5) 9/10| Australia (-5.5) 9/10
Michael Cheika recently got his tenure as Los Pumas boss off to a positive start thanks to a 2-1 home series win over a Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell-less Scotland outfit. While undoubtedly an encouraging result, it must be seen in context and has to lay the platform for a strong Rugby Championship run.
In the nine seasons since the inaugural competition, Argentina have finished as wooden spoonists all but once (in 2015). After failing to escape from their 2019 World Cup pool, the side has won six, drawn three and lost 10 of the 19-Tests they’ve played. They did achieve a first ever win over New Zealand in that time but have lost the three head-to-heads since then by an aggregated score of 13-113.
With Cheika having had some time to settle into the role following Mario Ledesma’s exit, Argentina need to start showing some improved performances in the Championship.
The Aussies meanwhile are smarting from their 2-1 series defeat to England. They occupy sixth on the world rankings, with five losses from their last six outings, and serious questions around many of Dave Rennie’s selections, particularly at fullback, No 12 and flyhalf, still remain.
The Kiwi coach has selected six different fullbacks in his 23-Tests to date. In the midfield, Samu Kerevi’s ACL injury sustained at the Commonwealth Games means Len Ikitau will need a new midfield partner, while it remains unclear whether Quade Cooper will reclaim the No 10 jumper from Noah Lolesio in the long run.
If the men in gold are to continue their evolution under Rennie, they need to start settling combinations with just a year out from the World Cup.
Verdict: Argentina (+5.5) 9/10
Australia should take this one, but injury disruptions and the fact they haven’t played in Argentina for four-years should keep it tight.